A large PostgreSQL installation can quickly hit various operating system resource limits. (On some systems, the factory defaults are so low that you don't even need a really "large" installation.) If you have encountered this kind of problem then keep reading.
Shared memory and semaphores are collectively referred to as "System V IPC" (together with message queues, which are not relevant for PostgreSQL). Almost all modern operating systems provide these features, but not all of them have them turned on or sufficiently sized by default, especially systems with BSD heritage. (For the QNX and BeOS ports, PostgreSQL provides its own replacement implementation of these facilities.)
The complete lack of these facilities is usually manifested by an Illegal system call error upon postmaster start. In that case there's nothing left to do but to reconfigure your kernel -- PostgreSQL won't work without them.
When PostgreSQL exceeds one of the various hard limits of the IPC resources then the postmaster will refuse to start up and should leave a marginally instructive error message about which problem was encountered and what needs to be done about it. (See also Section 3.3.1.) The relevant kernel parameters are named consistently across different systems; Table 3-2 gives an overview. The methods to set them, however, vary; suggestions for some platforms are given below. Be warned that it is often necessary to reboot your machine at least, possibly even recompile the kernel, to change these settings.
Table 3-2. System V IPC parameters
|Maximum size of shared memory segment (bytes)
|250kB + 8.2kB *
shared_buffers + 14.2kB *
max_connections or infinity
|Minimum size of shared memory segment (bytes)
|Total amount of shared memory available (bytes or pages)
|if bytes, same as
SHMMAX; if pages, ceil(SHMMAX/PAGE_SIZE)
|Maximum number of shared memory segments per process
|only 1 segment is needed, but the default is much higher
|Maximum number of shared memory segments system-wide
SHMSEG plus room
for other applications
|Maximum number of semaphore identifiers (i.e., sets)
|>= ceil(max_connections / 16)
|Maximum number of semaphores system-wide
|ceil(max_connections / 16) * 17 + room for other applications
|Maximum number of semaphores per set
|Number of entries in semaphore map
|Maximum value of semaphore
|>= 255 (The default is often 32767, don't change unless asked to.)
The most important
shared memory parameter is
the maximum size, in bytes, that a shared memory segment can
have. If you get an error message from
shmget along the lines of Invalid argument then it is possible that
this limit has been exceeded. The size of the required shared
memory segments varies both with the number of requested
-B option) and the number
of allowed connections (
although the former is the dominant item. (You can therefore,
as a temporary solution, lower these settings to get rid of the
failures.) As a rough approximation you can estimate the
required segment size as the number of buffers times the block
size (8 kB by default) plus ample overhead (at least half a
megabyte). Any error message you might get will contain the
size of the failed allocation request.
Less likely to cause problems is the minimum size for shared
memory segments (
should be at most somewhere around 256 kB for PostgreSQL (it is usually just 1). The
maximum number of segments system-wide (
SHMMNI) or per-process (
SHMSEG) should not cause a problem unless your
system has them set to zero. Some systems also have a limit on
the total amount of shared memory in the system; see the
platform-specific instructions below.
PostgreSQL uses one
semaphore per allowed connection (
-N option), in sets of 16. Each such set will
also contain a 17th semaphore which contains a "magic number", to detect collision with
semaphore sets used by other applications. The maximum number
of semaphores in the system is set by
SEMMNS, which consequently must be at least as
high as the connection setting plus one extra for each 16
allowed connections (see the formula in Table 3-2). The
SEMMNI determines the
limit on the number of semaphore sets that can exist on the
system at one time. Hence this parameter must be at least
ceil(max_connections / 16). Lowering
the number of allowed connections is a temporary workaround for
failures, which are usually confusingly worded "No space left on
device", from the function
In some cases it might also turn out to be necessary to
SEMMAP to be at least on
the order of
parameter defines the size of the semaphore resource map, in
which each contiguous block of available semaphores needs an
entry. When a semaphore set is freed it is either added to an
existing entry that is adjacent to the freed block or it is
registered under a new map entry. If the map is full, the freed
semaphores get lost (until reboot). Fragmentation of the
semaphore space could therefore over time lead to less
available semaphores than there should be.
SEMMSL parameter, which
determines how many semaphores can be in a set, must be at
least 17 for PostgreSQL.
Various other settings related to "semaphore undo", such as
SEMUME, are not of concern for PostgreSQL.
Shared Memory. By default, only 4 MB of
shared memory is supported. Keep in mind that shared
memory is not pageable; it is locked in RAM. To
increase the number of shared buffers supported by the
postmaster, add the following to your kernel
configuration file. A
SHMALL value of 1024 represents 4MB of
shared memory. The following increases the maximum
shared memory area to 32 MB:
options "SHMALL=8192" options "SHMMAX=\(SHMALL*PAGE_SIZE\)"
For those running 4.1 or later, just make the above
changes, recompile the kernel, and reboot. For those
running earlier releases, use bpatch to find the
sysptsize value in the current kernel.
This is computed dynamically at boot time.
$ bpatch -r sysptsize 0x9 = 9
SYSPTSIZE as a
hard-coded value in the kernel configuration file.
Increase the value you found using bpatch. Add 1 for every additional 4
MB of shared memory you desire.
sysptsize cannot be
changed by sysctl.
Semaphores. You may need to increase the number of semaphores. By default, PostgreSQL allocates 34 semaphores, which is over half the default system total of 60.
Set the values you want in your kernel configuration file, e.g.:
options "SEMMNI=40" options "SEMMNS=240" options "SEMUME=40" options "SEMMNU=120"
SYSVSEM need to be enabled
when the kernel is compiled. (They are by default.) The
maximum size of shared memory is determined by the option
SHMMAXPGS (in pages). The
following shows an example of how to set the various
options SYSVSHM options SHMMAXPGS=4096 options SHMSEG=256 options SYSVSEM options SEMMNI=256 options SEMMNS=512 options SEMMNU=256 options SEMMAP=256
(On NetBSD and OpenBSD the key word is actually option singular.)
The default settings tend to suffice for normal
installations. On HP-UX
10, the factory default for
SEMMNS is 128, which might be too low
for larger database sites.
IPC parameters can be set in the System Administration Manager (SAM) under Kernel Configuration->Configurable Parameters. Hit Create A New Kernel when you're done.
The default shared memory limit (both
SHMALL) is 32 MB in 2.2 kernels, but it
can be changed in the proc file
system (without reboot). For example, to allow 128
$ echo 134217728 >/proc/sys/kernel/shmall $ echo 134217728 >/proc/sys/kernel/shmmax
You could put these commands into a script run at boot-time.
Alternatively, you can use sysctl, if available, to control these parameters. Look for a file called /etc/sysctl.conf and add lines like the following to it:
kernel.shmall = 134217728 kernel.shmmax = 134217728
This file is usually processed at boot time, but sysctl can also be called explicitly later.
Other parameters are sufficiently sized for any application. If you want to see for yourself look into /usr/src/linux/include/asm-xxx/shmparam.h and /usr/src/linux/include/linux/sem.h.
In the default configuration, only 512 kB of shared
memory per segment is allowed, which is about enough for
-B 24 -N 12. To increase the
setting, first change the directory to /etc/conf/cf.d. To display the current
SHMMAX, in bytes,
./configure -y SHMMAX
To set a new value for
where value is the new
value you want to use (in bytes). After setting
SHMMAX, rebuild the
At least in version 2.6, the maximum size of a shared memory segment is set too low for PostgreSQL. The relevant settings can be changed in /etc/system, for example:
set shmsys:shminfo_shmmax=0x2000000 set shmsys:shminfo_shmmin=1 set shmsys:shminfo_shmmni=256 set shmsys:shminfo_shmseg=256 set semsys:seminfo_semmap=256 set semsys:seminfo_semmni=512 set semsys:seminfo_semmns=512 set semsys:seminfo_semmsl=32
You need to reboot to make the changes effective.
See also http://www.sunworld.com/swol-09-1997/swol-09-insidesolaris.html for information on shared memory under Solaris.
On UnixWare 7, the
maximum size for shared memory segments is 512 kB in the
default configuration. This is enough for about
-B 24 -N 12. To display the
current value of
/etc/conf/bin/idtune -g SHMMAX
which displays the current, default, minimum, and
maximum values, in bytes. To set a new value for
/etc/conf/bin/idtune SHMMAX value
where value is the new
value you want to use (in bytes). After setting
SHMMAX, rebuild the
Unix-like operating systems enforce various kinds of
resource limits that might interfere with the operation of your
PostgreSQL server. Of
importance are especially the limits on the number of processes
per user, the number of open files per process, and the amount
of memory available to a process. Each of these have a
"hard" and a "soft" limit. The soft limit is what actually
counts but it can be changed by the user up to the hard limit.
The hard limit can only be changed by the root user. The system
setrlimit is responsible for
setting these parameters. The shell's built-in command
ulimit (Bourne shells) or limit (csh) is
used to control the resource limits from the command line. On
BSD-derived systems the file /etc/login.conf controls what values the
various resource limits are set to upon login. See login.conf for details. The
relevant parameters are
datasize. For example:
default:\ ... :datasize-cur=256M:\ :maxproc-cur=256:\ :openfiles-cur=256:\ ...
(-cur is the soft limit. Append -max to set the hard limit.)
Kernels generally also have an implementation-dependent system-wide limit on some resources.
On Linux /proc/sys/fs/file-max determines the maximum number of open files that the kernel will support. It can be changed by writing a different number into the file or by adding an assignment in /etc/sysctl.conf. The maximum limit of files per process is fixed at the time the kernel is compiled; see /usr/src/linux/Documentation/proc.txt for more information.
The PostgreSQL server uses one process per connection so you should provide for at least as many processes as allowed connections, in addition to what you need for the rest of your system. This is usually not a problem but if you run several servers on one machine things might get tight.
The factory default limit on open files is often set to "socially friendly" values that allow many users to coexist on a machine without using an inappropriate fraction of the system resources. If you run many servers on a machine this is perhaps what you want, but on dedicated servers you may want to raise this limit.
On the other side of the coin, some systems allow individual
processes to open large numbers of files; if more than a few
processes do so then the system-wide limit can easily be
exceeded. If you find this happening, and don't want to alter
the system-wide limit, you can set PostgreSQL's
max_files_per_process configuration parameter
to limit its consumption of open files.